So I’ve written The End under the fourth draft of Leap of Faith and sent it off to my beta crew. While they read, the next item on my to-do list is the one job that many writers dread: the synopsis.
Why is it that just that word scares many writers silly? For me, there are two reasons:
Condensing something I’ve lovingly expanded back into two pages isn’t a picnic. I’m a pantser for the most part and I write very short first drafts. They’re usually a quarter to a third of the finished book, little more than the plot arc and a few bits of dialogue. Then my stories grow in the telling. The plot twists, details are added, and characters grow until the finished product barely resembles the first draft. Having to go backwards after four drafts and turn out two to four pages of summary is a chore.
Worse, though, I have a chip on my shoulder about anything to do with sales and selling and a synopsis is, at least in part, sales copy. The closer I am to the finished story and the more it has taken out of me emotionally, the harder I find it to write the synopsis, to sell the story.
Or maybe I should say the harder it is to start writing the synopsis. Because the strange thing is that once I’ve actually sat down to it, I can put a decent synopsis together in 2-3 hours. It’s the fortnight of procrastination beforehand that’s so hard to deal with.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic tips to share, no profound wisdom on how to write a synopsis and sell your story without the dread and mental gymnastics. I tend to put the task on my to-do list and glare at it despondently every morning, until my brain finally decides that enough is enough and hands me the first few sentences, somewhere to start telling the story in a way that doesn’t take 200 pages.
This moment frequently arrives after I’ve spent time talking to someone about the story. When I’ve tried to pack weeks of work into a few minutes of conversation. Which makes sense to me. A synopsis is still “the story”, just told in a different way. Maybe it’d be easier if an author could change their medium to produce the synopsis. Draw it, maybe. Cartoon it. Sing it. Act it. Maybe synopses are tricky to write because, as authors, we’re using one medium. First to tell the story. Then, to tell it again and sell it.
Or maybe musing about synopses is just another way for me to procrastinate writing one. Which is probably much closer to the truth than I’d like to contemplate. So, in penance, I’ll head off back to the screen that’s bare instead for its header and leave you with a little of what all the fuss is about – a bit of Joel and Kieran’s story.
From Leap of Faith:
“This isn’t a suicide watch. It’s not.” The bells of the nearby church chimed midnight. He’d doused the lights and drawn the blinds, and as he sat cross-legged on his bed and leaned against a stack of pillows, Joel repeated the words like a prayer that someone somewhere might hear. “This isn’t a suicide watch.”
Beside him, Kieran had finally succumbed to sleep with the help of the bottle of Jack Daniels Joel had bought earlier that day. Joel counted that a small victory. He wasn’t in favor of solving problems with alcohol, but they’d tried everything short of sleeping pills or a knockout punch. After a week of little rest, Kieran’s cheeks were gaunt. His deep tan—the foundation of his exotic good looks—had dulled to a shade of gray that proclaimed exhaustion, and Kieran’s eyes were ringed by smudges dark enough to make strangers think he’d lost a fight.
Joel didn’t mind that. He minded that Kieran wasn’t relaxed even now. That he had his arms crossed over his chest and both hands clenched in fists while he slept. Kieran hadn’t had enough alcohol to wake with a hangover, but looking like he did he wouldn’t wake refreshed.
Joel watched over his partner as he slept and wished he could help. He racked his brain for something he could say or do, even as he fought not to card his fingers through the ink-dark mess of choppy strands that Kieran called a hairstyle.
The previous week had been harrowing for the whole team. It was never a laugh fest when they lost a client, was worse when they failed to protect innocent bystanders, and they all struggled to come to terms with their failure. The man they’d been hunting had broken free mid-arrest and had taken a hostage. Cornered on the roof of an apartment building, he hadn’t hesitated to push the woman over the edge of the parapet, maybe hoping to slip away in the resulting chaos. Kieran, who’d stood nearest when Lillian Carter died and had yet been unable to prevent her death, was taking it the hardest. He had barely slept since the incident, and his responses were so far outside his normal parameters that Joel’s father, FireWorks’ president, had ordered Joel to keep a close eye on his partner.
“This isn’t a suicide watch.”
Joel believed that with every breath and heartbeat, and yet he guarded Kieran’s sleeping form with an archangel’s determination.